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Pretty up your split pea soup with a little twist

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Call me crazy, but I do not find gray-green lentils and green peas appetizing, unfortunately. Long ago I discovered red lentils, which I use all the time whenever I want lentil soup. Likewise, just one little change over from dried green split peas to yellow split peas makes all the difference for me.

So the classic Split Pea with Ham turns into a beautiful creamy-looking golden treat to me, and that is how I always make it. If the color of split peas or lentils isn't high on your list of priorities, you can ignore me and my hangups, but if anyone (like a child, for instance) has ever said "Eewww," when presented with any kind of pea soup, you might want to consider my idea.

The nicest thing about split peas and lentils of any description is that they are sold in bulk in Tucson's health-oriented stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods. That means you don't have to buy a bag that will leave you with leftovers to deal with, because you measure them out yourself.

GRANDMOTHER'S SPLIT PEA SOUP WITH HAM

From Grandmother's Best Cookbook

Ingredients:

2 cups split dried peas
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 large carrot, chopped fine
1 stalk of celery, chopped fine
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
4 cups water
8 ounces cooked ham, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 dried bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the peas in a colander under cold running water. Inspect them for anything that does not belong there, such as a little stone. Place them in a saucepan and cover them generously with cold water.

Boil the peas for 3 minutes, skimming off foam that rises to the surface. Drain the peas back into the colander and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot and sweat the onion until it becomes translucent. Add the carrot and celery and cook, stirring, for cook for 2 minutes.

Add the peas to the pot, pour the stock over all and bring to a low boil. Stir in the ham and cook gently for 1-1/2 hours. Finally add the spices and stir them in. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the bay leaf and serve the soup hot.

This is an easy classic soup to prepare, and it is gluten-free, just so you know. It is wonderful served with a rose wine and crusty bread, as long as gluten is not an issue.

If it is, you ought to take time to stroll past the gluten-free section at Whole Foods and take a look at the variety of products they offer. The big thing that I have noticed in GF cooking is the vast improvement in GF baking ingredients. It used to be that GF breads and cakes had a gritty texture, which you couldn't shake. Now that is no longer true, and the GF bread mix from the King Arthur Flour Company is so good that it is worth learning how to make it (though you will need a special baking pan). It is also sold pretty generally all over Tucson, so there's no need to order online if you don't usually take to the Internet to shop.

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